A task force created last month to review Apalachicola’s laws pertaining to alcoholic beverages have recommended to city commissioners that they tack on an additional hour to how late businesses can stay open at night to sell alcohol.

In addition, the task force proposed city ordinances be changed to allow businesses to serve alcohol on the sidewalks adjacent to their businesses, a practice that is already being done at several downtown locations.

City commissioners welcomed the task force’s recommendations at their Oct. 4 meeting, and referred the draft amendment to City Attorney Pat Floyd for his review. The commissioners would have to amend city ordinances at upcoming public meetings, to allow for the changes.

Speaking on behalf of the task force, Augusta West, director of Main Street, said the group met on three occasions, and reviewed other municipal ordinances, including the one for Winter Park, provided them by Cassie Gary, who co-owns the Owl Café, Tap Room and Oyster City Brewing Company.

Also serving on the task force was Danny Itzkovitz, who owns Tamara’s Café and the Tapas bar, Police Chief Bobby Varnes; Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce Director John Solomon; Charles Elliott, husband of the owner of the Up the Stairs restaurant; John Croom, owner of Q’s Corner Cocktail Lounge, and Apalachicola resident Beth Wright.

West said the committee was tasked with reviewing ordinances #91-2 and #75-4, which govern where drinking is allowed on city property, as well as the hours establishments can operate.

The task force proposed an additional hour that bars, nightclubs and restaurants could stay open on weekdays, until 1 a.m., and on weekends until 2 a.m.

West stressed that the group asked that conditions be set for this additional hour, which would be granted those establishments in the form of an annual permit.

As noted in the Winter Park model, this permit could be revoked if a business failed to comply with the ordnance’s terms, if law enforcement deemed it a problem or were able to verify complains from residents, or if excessive noise and loitering were evident.

In addition, a business’ failure to close by a specified hour, and “to remove all alcohol for consumption” by that hour could lead to stuff fines. The task force proposed fines of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense, $1,000 for a third offense and possible revocation of the annual permit.

“These are built-in provisions to ensure the business would be a good neighbor,” said West. “There have been instances where service is happening after hours. We wanted to allow that provision so that type of activity is curtailed.”

City Commissioner Mitchell Bartley pressed West on how it would be that police could know whether alcohol was being consumed inside a locked business.

“You can’t expect someone making a recommendation to come up with all the details,” interjected Johnson.

Floyd said the key is whether sales are taking place after hours, and promised to review the wording carefully.

In her remarks, West noted that “there are already a couple of bars” in which alcohol is being served on the sidewalk. “Technically this is illegal,” she said.

The recommendations would allow businesses licensed to sell alcohol “the use of sidewalks directly adjacent to the licensed premises during legal hours.” Also, an exception would be made for serving alcohol on city right-of-ways “during single day events sponsored by licensed businesses or nonprofit organizations.”

These event sponsors would be required to provide a description of the event, and the areas where alcohol would be served, as well as the required state permit.

This information would have to be provided the city commission no later than one month before the event, for their approval.